What to do if you suspect domestic abuse 

PAs provide care and support to people in their own homes, often alongside a husband or wife, partner or close family member. Inevitably, from time to time, PAs will hear or see things taking place between the spouses/partners that causes them to feel uncomfortable. Occasionally the PA can find themselves caught in the middle, or being asked to take sides. This can be extremely stressful and upsetting, and it can affect the PA’s working environment as well as their own emotional health and wellbeing.

Because PAs are an employee of the individual or family, they can easily feel like they’re in a very difficult position. So what should they do?

What is domestic abuse? 

The government defines domestic violence and abuse as any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. The abuse can be:

  • psychological
  • physical
  • sexual
  • financial
  • emotional

Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person dependent by isolating them from sources of support and depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.

Coercive behaviour is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim. This is not a legal definition. A coercive or controlling behaviour offence came into force in December 2015. It carries a maximum five years’ imprisonment, a fine or both.

Family carers who harm or are at risk of harm  

Many spouses/partners and family members who provide a significant amount of time caring and supporting someone will at some point experience stress and/or frustration which may lead to harm. This harm may be unintentional and happen because they can no longer cope. Sometimes the harm maybe intentional but whether intentional or unintentional it is the impact on the person being abused that must be considered and properly investigated.

Sometimes the carers themselves are at risk of harm as a result of their partner’s condition; frustration; anger; unwillingness to accept help etc. Often the carer will be unwilling to admit they are being harmed, but PAs in the home environment may witness the behaviour, or the carer may eventually talk to the PA.

If an incident takes place by or against a PA this is not considered domestic abuse and would be covered by relevant safeguarding procedures.

Where to go for help?

  • As a PA has no “manager” to go to they can call the Doncaster Domestic Abuse helpline – 0800 470 1505. This number will give you access to confidential information, advice and guidance or signpost to other services that can help. The national helpline is 0808 2000 247
  • Any PA can report domestic abuse anonymously to the helpline.
  • PAs may feel reluctant to report concerns for fear of upsetting the family unit; losing their employment or fear of retribution but it is important to remember the impact on the victim and that the abuse is probably indicating additional support and help is required.
  • Most local authorities offer training and qualification on domestic violence if you would like to gain more information, skills and knowledge on the subject.
  • If someone is in immediate danger of harm, you should call 999.